Home » Shibuya isn’t what it used to be

Shibuya isn’t what it used to be

I went to Shibuya for night street photography again.  People were around but not as many as three or four years ago.  It was hot, but I got some good photos.  And I confirmed a few of my thoughts that had developed about the area over the last couple of years.

Sukiya gyudon restaurant

Where should I start?  Well, the Shibuya crossing isn’t what it used to be.  It hasn’t seen many people on a regular weeknight for a very long time.  The pandemic saw to that.  It’s hard to spot a tourist in the middle taking a selfie when the lights turn red.  And I doubt they’ll be back anytime soon in large numbers.

Shibuya skyscrapers
Shibuya skyscrapers.

Actually, Nikkei Asia reported that tourist numbers to Japan have fallen.  And that is even with the country partially reopened.  That’s a disaster.  Without them at the crossing, the area lacks energy.  Many Shibuya stores must be hurting.  Big business is probably feeling the same pain.

Until the pandemic passes, things are going to be tough.  Shibuya shops need people.  Foreign tourists are missed.  The area needs a lively Halloween.  Those things bring a lot of money. But that won’t happen until the current situation abates.  It’s a Catch-22 situation.

woman pushes bicycles through tunnel of bicycles

Well, everything will return to normal one day.  But that isn’t now.  When it does, and the crowds are (hopefully) on the crossing, they should be in for a shock.  Much will have changed.  A lot of new construction is going on.  There were a few things I saw for the first time.

Shibuya is old.  Well, all places are, right?  For instance, the station building.  It is over 100 years gold.  And the Tokyu department store next to it dates from 1954.  If I’m wrong about those dates, let me know.  They’ve had many renovations but look old now.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing
Shibuya crossing.

Well, it’s getting a facelift.  Rejuvenation might be the better word for it.  The station has seen some changes. Inside, its Ginza and Tokyu Toyoko line platforms have moved.  I’ve no idea what it’ll look like in the end.   But I’m excited.  We’ll see the results in a few more years.  Shibuya Scramble Crossing and Hachiko Square might see changes too.

Around the station, many things are underway.  It started with the Hikarie department store opening in 2012.  Shibuya Scramble Square with its Shibuya Sky observation deck was another.  So is Shibuya Stream.  In a few more years, the area will look pretty good. There will also be more buildings with nearly the same name!

people eating at Shibuya ramen shop

Anyway, it was good to photograph the area at night and some of the changes.  Like all cities, everything comes alive when the lights go on.  There are plenty of those.

I also visited a building I had long wanted to photograph.  It houses a Sukiya gyuden restaurant on the ground floor.  I’ve seen it on Instagram many times.  The facade blazes with light.  It’s in Sakuragaoka, near the Shibuya Granbell Hotel, not far from the Station.

Shibuya Center-Gai at night
Shibuya Center-Gai at night.

It’s a pity I don’t have space to show you all the photos from the night.   I took so many.  They included Yamashita Park, around Bunkamura and more shots of Shibuya Center-Gai.  They’ll have to wait for a future article.

Anyway, at the end of my street photo walk, I got the distinct impression the area had slowed down.  It needs its tourists.  The rejuvenation project will have no meaning if they don’t return.  Ken Hasebe, the mayor of Shibuya, has acknowledged this.  

Fuji soba shop

He is on record saying he wants people to think of Shibuya the same way they think of New York, London and Paris.  And for that to happen, tourists and other international visitors are key.  Anyway, you can read more in this article.  And you will find out more about the plans for the area.  

Wrapping up

At the moment, Shibuya isn’t what it used to be.  But the international visitors and tourists will come back.  We need to be patient.  Until that happens, street photography around the station is still pretty good.  One day it will be better.

For more Shibuya-related articles, look at:

Please leave questions and comments below.

2 thoughts on “Shibuya isn’t what it used to be”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.